Reagan and Bush accused in Iran-Contra arms report

WASHINGTON - President Ronald Reagan did know about the plan to sell arms to Iran and divert the profits to Nicaraguan rebels, according to the long-awaited Iran-Contra report which was finally issued yesterday. And, contrary to his repeated denials, the then vice-president, George Bush, also knew all about the sale of arms, writes Patrick Cockburn.

The special prosecutor, Lawrence Walsh, said he had had to contend with 'lies' and obstruction to produce his 566-page report on the scandal, which was unmasked in 1986. He concludes that senior members of President Reagan's cabinet systematically withheld information to conceal their chief's role in the affair.

Mr Walsh said a central theme of the report is that Iran-Contra was not 'a rogue operation' that went wrong but one that was planned and conducted at the highest levels. At the time, the scandal seriously weakened President Reagan's administration and continued to haunt President Bush right up to the final moments of the 1992 election. Although Mr Bush insisted he was 'out of the loop', notes taken at the time by the defence secretary of the day, Caspar Weinberger, shows him attending meetings about Iranian arms sales and financing the right-wing Contra rebels.

Mr Walsh's investigation was hampered by a competing investigation by Congress, which granted immunity to various participants in the affair, such as Colonel Oliver North. They then either escaped prosecution or had their cases dismissed on appeal. Mr Walsh noted yesterday that Congress had not even summoned either President Reagan or President Bush to give evidence but had blamed junior officials for 'a runaway conspiracy'.

The key conclusions of the report are that President Reagan had authorised his aides to defy Congress and secretly arm the US-backed Contra rebels in Nicaragua. He also authorised the sale of arms to Iran, although he had been warned this might be illegal. When these two plans were unmasked President Reagan 'knowingly participated or at least acquiesced' in a cover-up.

When President Bush, in his last days in office in 1992, pardoned all remaining government officials involved in Iran-Contra, Mr Walsh denounced it as part of a continuing cover-up. In his report he says that from the beginning, highly relevant documents 'were systematically and wilfully withheld from investigators by several Reagan administration officials'. President Bush refused to give up his diary and Mr Weinberger kept his rough notes of meetings.

President Reagan denounced the report yesterday as consisting of 'baseless accusations' that could not be proved in court. He said it was an expensive pat-on-the-back for Mr Walsh. Republicans have repeatedly said Mr Walsh was vindictively hunting down public officials who thought they were doing their job. Up to the last minute President Reagan's lawyers tried to prevent the report being made public.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Sir Chris Hoy won six Olympic golds - in which four events?
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a dynamic En...

SAP Data Migration Lead

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Experienced Lead SAP Data Manager Requir...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Graduate Recruitment Resourcers - Banking Technologies

£18000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Huxley Associates are looking...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform